During Friday's time trials at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Joey Logano knocked Sprint Cup championship contender Brad Keselowski off the front row for Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400.
During Saturday's first practice session, Logano restored Keselowski to the front of the field -- without meaning to -- giving third-place qualifier Keselowski a possible leg up in his title battle against Jimmie Johnson.
Logano was trailing Greg Biffle and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin during the practice when those two drivers crashed in front of him. Logano couldn't avoid the wreck and damaged the nose of his pole-winning car so severely that his team rolled out the backup.
"I was behind the 16 (Biffle)," Logano explained. "Denny went to the bottom. I went to the top, and the 16 was in the middle. I wasn't going to stick it in three-wide, so I stayed back, because I figured it was practice, why are we going to do that?
"Just seemed like Denny was coming up like we were two-wide, and the 16 stayed in the middle of the race track like he was three-wide, and they ran out of room, and I was the innocent bystander once again and drove into it."
The car change means that Logano will drop to the rear on Sunday, according to NASCAR rules. When he does, Keselowski will move from the third starting spot to the inside of the front row, next to second-place qualifier Marcos Ambrose.
Typically, the pole winner has lane choice for the start of the race, unless NASCAR specifies otherwise. Theoretically, Logano would have picked his lane before dropping back, likely choosing the inside to help future Penske Racing teammate Keselowski in his quest for a first championship. (With Logano going to the rear, the inside lane, or odd-number cars move up to fill the hole).
Logano planned to talk to Keselowski about the lane choice, but NASCAR took the decision out of Logano's hands, taking the decision away from the driver of the No. 20 car.
The practical result is the same. Keselowski, who leads Johnson by 20 points entering the season finale, will take the green flag from the inside of the front row with Ambrose beside him on the outside. NASCAR's action, however, removes from Logano the onus of the choice and potential criticism for helping a future teammate.
Johnson, who was 10th fastest in time trials, will start where he qualified because he's on the outside, even-numbered row. Both Biffle (who qualified 13th) and Hamlin also went to back-up cars and will start from the rear. That won't hurt Hamlin, whose team miscalculated suspension travel during qualifying. Hamlin was 44th fastest and was starting from the back anyway, on an owner points provisional.